I am incredibly tired from a day that started too many hours ago, but having just returned from New Orleans, Louisiana - I would be committing an epic failure of monumental proportion if I didn't share a few thoughts with you before I enter my daily slumber.
First, I must apologize to the citizens of New Orleans and all who experienced the devastation and heartache known as Hurricane Katrina. Having lived in Florida for several years, I've experienced more than my share of hurricanes and horrible weather. I've lived without power, water, and basic necessities. I've seen some pretty horrible weather. During and immediately after Hurricane Katrina, I knew the area was in pretty bad shape because of the massive press coverage - but having been through my own weather trauma and ordeals, I thought the people were overreacting, overly dramatic, and a little outlandish.
But having visited New Orleans for the first time this weekend, I must tell you - the people of New Orleans are anything but my first inclination. Imagine a geography filled with people who embrace their incredibly rich American, French, Spanish (and a mash-up of other cultures and peoples) culture - including the food, the sounds, the architecture and design, and the customs of their past. Now make that cultural embrace a daily way of life. Unadulterated love for nostalgia - both the good and the bad - and a genuine effort to make tomorrow a little bit better than today, while living in the moment with love and respect. That is New Orleans.
In addition to a fabulous time at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, I ate, drank, and experienced some awesomeness. From a few delicious cocktails at The W New Orleans Bar (thanks to a great new friend and bartender Andrew), to shopping at one of the most well appointed, organized, and visually stimulating Saks Fifth Avenue department stores I've ever been in, with the incredible culture and hipster vibe on Magazine Street (including ab/fab boutiques Style Lab, Hemline, et al.) and excellent eateries and wonderful watering holes (especially the Bulldog, Divina Gelato, and Sucré), to an oh-so-necessary visit to Cafe du Monde for those powder sugar mountains of beignets, I can't get enough.
The marketing tagline for the Crescent City should be this - "New Orleans: Come as You Are". Every city has it's problems. But not every city has the charm, the southern hospitality, the rich heritage and culture, and the genuine appreciation for beauty as New Orleans.
Merci, my friends! You shall always be en vogue.
PS - I want to give a shout out to Chynah (sounds like China - but she's way too fabulous to spell it just like the country) with White Fleet taxi company. Her incredibly spirit, amazing humour, and zest for life truly embody the New Orleans spirit. Whenever you need a life in the Crescent City - you better call her. Just be ready for the ride of your life. And if you want a place to stay with great location, comfort, and value - the Hilton Garden Inn on Gravier Street is outstanding (with an incredible staff as well!).